Take power back from quangos

24th September 2004 at 01:00
Thalia Marriott (FE Focus, Septemember 17) gave us an interesting story about the Finnish shirt factory built to satisfy an order from the Soviet Union, an order which only came once.

But it was used as a metaphor for the FE sector. Not a good parallel I am afraid. The Finns did not have to build the factory and could have sold further shirts elsewhere. The better parallel is how the shirts were ordered in the first place, by the central Soviet command economy.

FE is under direct central planning control reminiscent of that.

I know her college. West Thames lies near Heathrow Airport. I taught there in the sixties when it was called Hounslow borough college. I was asked to teach an A-level economics class due to the sudden popularity of the subject. Hounslow sensibly had a list of qualified teachers for just such an emergency.

This contrasted sharply with my experience when I taught there in the 1990s after it became West Thames college. I was working for an agency and had been teaching an HND for two months when I was asked to show my qualifications. Agencies had been sending just anybody apparently.

The major difference between my first and second experience is the absence of the word "borough", or council involvement.

Ms Marriott writes that funding for teaching refugees and asylum seekers has been suddenly withdrawn.

These folk are in the area due to the existence of the airport. But so are their children in Hounslow schools, who cope with them without any of the trauma Ms Marriott expresses. None of the short-term thinking of FE This week a group at the Labour Party conference called for the re-nationalisation of the railways to reverse one disastrous mistake of the past.

Perhaps principals and others in FE will start calling for the re-involvement of local education authorities in governing colleges instead of today's unaccountable quangos, who are answerable only to the central planning department of the government. This would reverse another disaster of the Major years.

But somehow I doubt it. There are too many property developers involved.

Dave Nicholson 21 Albert Street Windsor,Berkshire

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